What’s In A Name?

There are weeks in which your to-do list gets the better of you. Then there are weeks in which you don’t deal with your to-do list because you’re actually too busy with everything else. This week has been the latter. I started classes on Monday and a new position on Wednesday evening, and things have been a bit of whirlwind since.

Last weekend though, Karen and I were out of town with family, and I managed to steal some excellent and uninterrupted writing time. The end result was that I finished writing the middle section of Part II of my novel-in-progress. That means that I have the final section to outline, and then only about 100 pages or so should be standing between me and a finished rough draft. I’m pretty happy about that. It feels quite nice to write that, actually, and I think I’m going to post more frequent updates here to mark my progress.

All that said, as I reviewed my writing to-do list for the week (none of which had gotten accomplished, of course…it seems to come in waves and leave just as quickly, this progress thing), one of the items was to re-evaluate the name of my protagonist.

That’s sort of a big deal.

Sometimes, us writerly types choose names for our characters carefully and methodically. Other times, the character sort of comes into existence in our heads complete with name and all. This particular character was just that way, and I’ve never even considered giving her a different name. The issue is that, apparently, it’s taken. I discovered a few months ago that a certain extremely popular novel that was recently made into an extremely popular film stars a major character with this same name. I had never read the book nor seen the film, as they aren’t really my style, so I was quite surprised. The name, you see, isn’t at all a common one.

So, my concern is this: will someone reading my novel after publication encounter this character literally on page 1, and think that I’ve copied her from a book I’ve never read, or a movie I’ve never seen? Or will they think that I’ve copied the name simply to gain a readership? Will they think that I’ve copied the name at all, or will they just roll with it? A name, after all, is never really original.

I’ve looked through some alternate names, but nothing has really connected with me, because, as I’ve gotten to know the character, naming her something else just seems to be forced. Not naming her something else, though, seems logistically problematic.

So, what would you do? Leave your character with the name with which she appeared, or arbitrarily change her name to something that may at least be close? I’m really stuck on this one. Any thoughts are appreciated.

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